The hostile media landscape in the Gambia, marred by aggressive laws and regulatory measures that have almost crippled mainstream outlets, has some journalists in the country turning to blogs to report the news.
Advocacy groups have long criticized the Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh for his dismal record on press freedom. A self-proclaimed healer who says he has found cures to AIDS, obesity, and erectile dysfunction, Jammeh is on the 2012 list of predators to press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
With the emergence of social media, many observers worry that Jammeh's brutal restrictions on mainstream journalists are likely to be transferred to netizens.
Even though the West African country is said to have a lower cost of internet connectivity compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of bloggers and netizens is relatively low. Here are some of the most active and popular blogs in Gambia, mostly run by Gambian journalists who have been sent into redundancy by the country’s anti-press laws and practices.
The Gambia News Online is run by Lamin Jahateh. It is an independent and non-partisan blog that seeks to feed its readers with the latest news and events in the Gambia and beyond with a special focus on economic and financial news, features, and analysis. “At Gambia News Online, we tell the news as it happens,” according to Jahateh.
Modou S. Joof is the editor and publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard blog, which is dedicated to “Telling the stories of Africa to over one billion Africans”. But just below that Joof has this for his readers: “To our dear subscribers, readers, and followers: please be informed that from now till 2015 this blog may not be UPDATED on a daily basis. This is because the publisher and editor is currently pursuing a two-year diploma course on journalism and mass communication. He maybe too busy to keep up with the much needed pace and frequency to keep this blog UPDATED on a daily basis.”
The Gambia News Wave is another news blog edited and managed by Demba Kandeh, also a journalist (the author of this post). The blog is dedicated to information sharing.
Amat Jeng is also a Gambian journalist based in Sweden and blogs at Media Revolution. He notes that his blog is a reservoir for news about the Gambia and the sub-region. It endeavors to give impartial reports to anyone interested in business, economy, financial, and political news about the Gambia.
In his latest post on February 7, 2013, Jeng revealed the Gambia’s domestic debt burden increase for the period 2011-2012. He is one of the few Gambian bloggers based abroad.
Women’s Bantaba is managed by Binta Bah, a journalist and a women’s rights activist. She notes that her blog aspires to tell stories that have never been told. Her latest post is an interview with one of the Gambia’s leading women and girls’ rights activists, Amie Bojang Sissoho, a programme officer at the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practice (GAMCOTRAP).
The Nget Cell blog is run by Abdoulie Nget. A layout designer, Nget was also the sports editor of the once popular newspaper in the Gambia, The Daily News. The newspaper, along with two media houses, was ordered to close down operations late last year by operatives of the Gambia’s notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).